Cheer spirit sticks can bring a team together and improve team morale. You can make your team's spirit stick from scratch, or you can purchase one from a cheerleading store. Whichever option you choose, to really understand the importance of cheer spirit sticks, you need to understand their history.
History of Cheer Spirit Sticks
The spirit stick tradition was born at a National Cheerleaders Association camp in 1954. Over the course of the camp, one team stood out from the rest. They couldn't jump, stunt or tumble like the other teams, but their spirit and attitude buoyed the camp and promoted enthusiasm and unity. Unfortunately, their scores wouldn't land them in the winner's circle. Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer wanted to acknowledge their efforts in a special way. With such short notice, he didn't have many options, so he cut a branch off a tree, painted it and allowed it to dry in his garage. He presented the stick to the team as a "spirit stick" to honor the attitude and enthusiasm that the team embodied.
The spirit stick remains an integral part of cheerleading camp, with judges presenting the most spirited team the award at the end of camp. Even if your team hasn't earned an "official" spirit stick from camp, that doesn't mean you can't decide as a team to focus on the importance of spirit and unity, making or purchasing your own symbol of team spirit.
Buying or Making Spirit Sticks
Most cheerleading vendors offer spirit sticks for purchase. You can spend between $5.00 and $20.00 for a premade spirit stick from vendors like SpiritAccessories.com and 2Cheer4. This is a good option for coaches who want to purchase an individual spirit stick for each player and don't have the time to invest in making multiple spirit sticks. Otherwise, the act of making a spirit stick for your team or a specific teammate can make the stick especially meaningful.
How to Make a Spirit Stick
Before you make your spirit stick, decide how much you want to invest. If you want each squad member to make her own as a team project, you may want to use simple and inexpensive items like empty paper towel rolls, streamers and beads. If you want to make a sturdier spirit stick, use a wooden dowel.
- Paint the wooden dowel or paper towel roll with paint in your team's colors
- Allow the paint to dry, then apply a second coat
- Decorate the stick creatively - you can add glitter, sequins, all the squad members' signatures or a caricature of your team's mascot
- Use duct tape to seal one end of the spirit stick.
- Fill the stick half-full with sand, gravel, bells or beads. This will add heft to the stick and also give it a noise-making quality.
- Seal the other side of the spirit stick.
- Paint the ends of the stick or decorate them with tissue paper and ribbons.
Spirit Stick Ideas
There are a number of ways to incorporate spirit sticks into a cheer squad's traditions to maintain focus on spirit and unity. You could invite rookie cheerleaders onto the squad by making them special spirit sticks and presenting them during an initiation. You could offer a "spirited cheerleader of the week" award and present the spirit stick to the most enthusiastic cheerleader at the end of each week. She could then pass it along the following week to the cheerleader she thought best fit the title. You could even make them and sell them as a team fundraiser.
The most important aspect of the cheer spirit stick is the focus on attitude and team spirit, rather than competitive greatness. If you carry that knowledge with you into every competition, you'll come out ahead at the end of the day.